Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Must Read: Berkeley Puts Its Pot Farms on Hold, Too; Quan Announces Return of Community Policing Officers

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 7:12 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Berkeley city officials have decided to table their plans to permit six large medical cannabis growing facilities in light of questions raised by the county DA about Oakland’s proposed pot farms, the Berkeley Voice reports. In November, Berkeley voters approved plans for the pot farms, but city officials are concerned because they’re very similar to Oakland’s. District Attorney Nancy O’Malley raised questions last month about Oakland’s proposal because the pot farms would be separate businesses from the city’s medical cannabis dispensaries, a possible violation of state law. Berkeley’s plan would set up the same scenario. In addition, there appear to be no available spaces for the large pot farms in Berkeley either.

2. Mayor Jean Quan announced yesterday the return of community policing officers to specific Oakland beats, the Trib reports. The move was made possible by voter approval in November of Measure BB, the so-called Measure Y fix. The police department had transferred community policing officers to other duties in July after Measure Y was suspended following the layoff of eighty cops.

3. California will no longer have a secretary of education under a plan by Governor Jerry Brown to eliminate the cabinet-level position in a cost-cutting move, the Chron reports. The secretary of education post has long been viewed as redundant because the state also has the elected position of state superintendent of schools. Democrat Tom Torlakson of the East Bay was elected to the state supe job in November.

4. Brown, however, will have a chance to appoint a new state Supreme Court justice, because Justice Carlos Moreno made a surprise retirement announcement yesterday, the Chron reports. Moreno, the lone Democrat on the high court, said he decided to retire in part to because of Brown’s election.

5. In the wake of the UC executives’ pension controversy, a new bill introduced in Sacramento would cap retirement benefits in the future for top university officials, the Chron reports. However, the bill by Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo apparently does not address the question of whether current high-ranking UC officials were promised much bigger pensions and should receive them.

6. New state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones asked Blue Shield of California to hold off on its plans to increase health insurance rates by as much as 59 percent, the Chron reports. But Jones, a Democrat, admitted that he has no power to stop Blue Shield from jacking up rates as long as the insurer abides by new federal rules under Obamacare to spend at least 80 percent of revenues on healthcare.

7. Annie’s Inc., a producer of organic and natural foods, announced that it’s moving its headquarters to Berkeley and will occupy part of the old Clif Bar building, the Trib reports. Annie’s will share the building with GU Energy Labs, a maker of performance sports nutrition, which is relocating from another spot in Berkeley. Clif Bar moved to Emeryville last year.

8. Apartment vacancies have dropped nationwide as more families have lost their homes in the continuing foreclosure crisis, Bloomberg News reports. The vacancy rate nationally dropped to 6.6 percent, down from 8 percent earlier this year. Apartment rents also have increased.

9. LinkedIn plans to go public later this year, and Facebook may go public as early as 2012, the Chron reports. New filings also show that Facebook is profitable, earning $355 million in net income in the first nine months of 2010.

10. And the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes continues to unfold as the Miami Dolphins withdrew their $7 million a year offer to the Stanford University coach. The move reopens the door for the San Francisco 49ers who were thought to be out of the running after they only offered $4.5 million, the Chron reports. Harbaugh, however, could go back to Stanford or end up with the Denver Broncos.

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